Start the year off by ‘doing you.’
Instead of criticizing yourself today for whatever you perceive you are lacking in terms of relationships (stressful marriage, fear of a life alone without love, lack of meaningful friendships, contentious work relationships, difficulty with your children or parents) take a step back and closely examine how you deal with yourself. Building your relationship with yourself will have far reaching impact on improving the quality of your romantic relationships and friendships, as well as enhancing your motivation and drive to get what you want out of life.
Resolution 1. Resolve to build greater Self-Compassion. Far too often people beat themselves up for not handling a particular relationship adequately, for causing distress to another, or for not doing enough for someone else. In my experience this kind of self-criticism means people try harder for a bit, only to regress to the same problematic patterns. In reality what helps people to be truly present and understanding of others is being deeply compassionate with themselves. Women in particular are socialized to tune in more with the feelings of others than to tune in with their own feelings. For some, it becomes a compulsion to make sure everyone else is okay before actually attending to how they themselves are feeling. This results in lopsided relationships where the woman involved is so consumed by taking care of the needs of her partners, children, parents, friends, that she may not even recognize how out of touch she is with her own needs. Self-compassion means self-acceptance, faults and all. And, it means recognizing that your experience of life is connected to the larger collective human experience.
Resolution 2. Resolve to look at your ‘failures’ or setbacks as opportunities for growth. It is common when faced with failure to give up and remind yourself of all of your other failures and to dwell on why it is you will never get whatever it is you truly desire. This thinking writes the script for a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. Improving the way you treat yourself means when hardship and disappointment are present, you do not pull the covers over your head and turn against yourself. You are your own most potent ally–if you become harsh and self-critical when faced with your shortcomings, you are turning on the person who can do the most to help. It is very powerful to re-write the script, drop gloomy resignation and resolve to work toward greater self-determination. Do not globally write yourself off. Sure, list specific weaknesses you have (fear of commitment, procrastination, chronic tardiness, fear of change), but also list ways to challenge yourself to mitigate these weaknesses and grow.
Resolution 3. Resolve to search each day for a sense of peace and wellbeing even if at first you can only sustain it for a few moments. Whatever feeling we carry in our bodies, we radiate out to others in our life. This can often set the theme for how interactions will go. If you are always busy, frazzled and never at peace, others pick up this frenetic energy and will not be at peace with you in your presence. If you carry sadness or anger, those you want to connect with will feel these same emotions in your presence. Work to find moments where you can connect with yourself, without obsessive thinking about what needs to be done next. Look for moments when you can concentrate on purposeful breathing and other physical sensations. Meditating goes far when it comes to dealing with others in your life. Resolve to connect with a peaceful feeing inside your own body and you will begin to extend this composure to all of your interactions. Being self-possessed will help you to appreciate others, stay in the present and even infect them with the same sense of wellbeing.
Resolution 4. Resolve not to take responsibility for other people.There is a difference between listening and connecting with others vs. taking on emotional work they need to do for themselves. The critical thinking and judgments of others are not opportunities for you to work harder to gain approval or to help them to your detriment. Resolve to notice if you are preoccupied by what others should be doing differently or with how to gain the approval of others and let that preoccupation go.
Resolution 5. Resolve to become more alive through connection.As a psychologist I talk to people frequently who live a double life. To their friends, family, spouse, they may seem to have it all together, while, deep down they harbor anger, negative thinking, anxiety or despair. It is a part of the normal human experience to struggle with negative thoughts or upsetting emotions; however, internalizing this negativity is toxic. Give up the fear of what others will think of you if they knew who you really are and what you really feel—remember most everyone has a dark side. Just as you are not responsible for other people, they are not responsible for you and the healthy ones will support and listen to you. The benefit of expressing yourself openly far outweighs the miniscule impact of someone having a negative perception or judgment about you.
Forget resolving to ‘be a better person’ instead, resolve to treat yourself as you wish others would treat you. As you improve your relationship with you, much of the rest of your life (including enjoying those you love most and coping with those that are harder to deal with) will reflect the ease and wellbeing you feel within.